Write What You Know, Learn to Know More to Write

There are many ways of gath­er­ing nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion about the top­ic you are going to write about. With Inter­net being flood­ed with crap it is get­ting hard­er and hard­er to do research, swim­ming in the Google ‘bub­bles’, tai­lored just for you. Not. I don’t want some algo­rithm to sug­gest me loads of irrel­e­vant infor­ma­tion. I don’t have time and strength to process all that, dig­ging to get the gold seeds of wis­dom for my projects. The more spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion you need, the hard­er is to get it (and you might not even know where to look for it in the begin­ning – this pad­dling con­sumes even more time.)

Chances are the infor­ma­tion you are look­ing for is not in your field of exper­tise, i.e. you have your diplo­mas and stuff in oth­er fields. And maybe even on the oth­er side of the knowl­edge spec­trum.

What to do?

One good idea is to ask a per­son who works in the field of inter­est. If it is sci­ence, there are numer­ous “Ask a [insert sci­en­tist here]” ser­vices. They are not super fast, and you shouldn’t flood these peo­ple with tons of ques­tions – so the best idea is to sum up all things you want to ask and send them in one e-mail. You will get a reply with­in a few weeks. Of course, you might be lucky hav­ing friends who work in those spe­cif­ic fields and can help.

If you have access to a good library, you might also dig for answers there. Ref­er­ence books are expen­sive, and you would prob­a­bly need a lot of those, so I wouldn’t rec­om­mend buy­ing them just for one-time peek. Again, you might not even find an answer you are look­ing for.

The down­side of the two options above is you don’t own that knowl­edge. You bor­row it. If you need some­thing sim­i­lar, but a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, you’ll be run­ning around ask­ing ques­tions again, storm­ing libraries and read­ing your ass off. This con­sumes time. It will devour your time each time you need to do your research. If you are con­sent to this – fine. Stop read­ing here.

There is anoth­er option. It also requires your time, but it does so only once. I’m talk­ing, of course, about free online cours­es. Yes, they require you to work on them. They require your time. No, not your writ­ing time. You can cut on TV and oth­er small things for a few weeks. But this small sac­ri­fice comes with ben­e­fits – the knowl­edge you’ll gain is all yours now. You will have a base to work with, to think and decide for your­self. You will have an idea where to look next time you need addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion. And you’ll be a lot faster in your research. And prob­a­bly make less mis­takes. You will be the one to answer your ques­tions for your writ­ing. If you are work­ing in a spe­cif­ic genre like sci­ence fic­tion – no, even broad­er – spec­u­la­tive fic­tion, there are things you would need to research. Many, many things. And you can learn them before you would start your next project. So, con­sid­er being a stu­dent again for a while (if you are not one any­more.)

Free online cours­es are not hard to find via Google or any oth­er search engine. For exam­ple, look at this: over 600 free online cours­es. There are more sophis­ti­cat­ed ones, like Cours­era. Then there’s Khan Acad­e­my, a library of over 4,000 videos on every­thing from arith­metic to physics, finance, and his­to­ry and hun­dreds of skills to prac­tice, with a mis­sion to help you learn what you want, when you want, at your own pace. And here’s the Ulti­mate List of Free Online Video Cours­es.

I signed up for Astro­bi­ol­o­gy and the Search for Extrater­res­tri­al Life on Cours­era. Five weeks are going to be fun. And no spe­cif­ic back­ground is required!

Try it. You might get to like the idea. 

Jeno Marz
JENO MARZ is a science fiction writer from Latvia, Northern Europe, with background in electronics engineering and computer science. She is the author of two serial novels, Falaha’s Journey: A Spacegirl’s Account in Three Movements and Falaha’s Journey into Pleasure. Marz is current at work on a new SF trilogy. All her fiction is aimed at an adult audience.

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